Inheritance – To share or not to share, the fairness of divorce settlements!

The High Court in London ruled on Friday that after a 25 year marriage the wife was entitled to less than 20% of the couples £24million pot which had been inherited by the husband. Mr Justice Moylan called this a generous settlement after confirming that the usual “sharing principle” did not apply to the case as the source of the family wealth had been built up by the Husband’s father.

After a long marriage the courts will usually seek to equate the parties financial positions but in a greater number of the “big money” cases where the needs of the parties will easily be met by the resources available, more and more cases are being fought to try to “depart from equality”.

In this instance the couple’s wealth was valued at between £21 million and £24 million and had been inherited by the Husband who was in his sixties. His father had set up a manufacturing firm after the Second World War which had floated in the 1950s and sold in the 1980s. The husband inherited several farms which included thousands of acres of land as well as a substantial investment portfolio, shares in family business and a shooting estate.

It was heard that the couple had a “very good standard of living” which the Wife described as “extremely high, with no money worries and no restraints on our spending” The Husband was able to earn £100,000 a year from farming but also £300,000 per annum from his share portfolio.

During the marriage the couple had lived in an “extremely rare and valuable” home in a rural estate with the benefit of a swimming pool, tennis court and ornamental lake.

The Wife sought a lump sum of £6million on top of her own assets of £1 million to buy and furnish an appropriate home and to generate an income need of more than £130,000 per annum.

The Husband suggested she should have £850,000 to buy a house and £1.4 million to go with her own asset and that in applying the “sharing principle” to provide the Wife a stake in the Husband’s inherited wealth would be an “invasion” of a fortune he owed to his father.

Mr Justice Moylan said the Husband’s wealth were not to be considered as “matrimonial property” and that in his view it was “fair” to base the award on a “generous assessment” of her needs. She was awarded £3.3 million on top of her £1 million assets.

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